What is Cyber Warfare?
Cyber warfare, cyber espionage, cyber terrorism, cyber attack and similar terms have become common in news reports and commentaries. Moreover, a constant barrage of adds on TV and the Internet warns us of the dangers of cyber identity theft. Consequently, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the Internet and warfare has a concept of what these terms represent. However, the true definition of cyber warfare is a matter of debate.
Militarization of Cyber Space
A very narrow definition of cyber warfare limits acts of cyber warfare to actions taken during actual military conflict. These cyber attacks are usually directed at military computer networks and computer-controlled weapons’ systems and are taken to gain traditional battlefield prizes.
For example, in 1998, the U.S. facilitated the bombing of Serbian targets by using cyber space to disrupt Serbian air traffic control. During Israel’s 2006 war with the Hezbollah, Israel claimed that several Middle Eastern states employed cyber warfare tactics to assist Hezbollah forces.
Cyber War and More
A broader definition of cyber warfare includes attacks on government information systems and essential services. Cyber espionage by a foreign government or enemy by accessing another government’s classified information is an aspect of cyber warfare. An attack designed to cause panic, physical harm or financial collapse is an act of cyber terrorism. Terrorist acts of cyber warfare would go far beyond common nuisance viruses causing only temporary disruptions.
In September 2010, Iran’s nuclear centrifuges were cyber attacked by the Stuxnet computer worm. The U.S. has essentially admitted involvement. Similarly, the U.S. has accused China and Russia of planting potential malware on the U.S. electrical grid system. Recently, the Pakistan Cyber Army and the Indian Cyber Army have traded cyber attacks on government systems in an ongoing dispute.
Ironically, the best way to combat cyber warfare is to find weaknesses in strategic software by showing how it can be attacked. After exposing the system’s vulnerability, eliminating that vulnerability is the next step. Finding the expertise required is much like hiring a thief to design your security system. Additionally, traditional methods of counter-intelligence are employed to identify, penetrate, or neutralize foreign operations and to gauge enemy cyber capabilities and intentions.
In 2010, the Pentagon set up the U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) to defend American military networks and placed it under the director of the National Security Agency (NSA). Presently, Cyber Command is set up to protect only military targets. The Department of Homeland Security protects government agencies, and private companies remain responsible for their internal systems. However, Cyber Command is considering defining foreign sponsored commercial espionage as a national security issue.
Probably, the most disturbing aspect of any cyber warfare tactic is its use of the Internet to level the battlefield. The Internet equalizes the cyber power of high-tech nations and low-tech nations. Additionally, the Internet makes physical boundaries irrelevant and provides at least temporary anonymity.
Peter Wendt is a writer from Austin, Texas. He researches ideas for his articles online, and thus relies heavily on accessible wireless internet, and recommends this business wireless hotspot solution.